Saturday, 15 September 2012

Identity and Work (Permanent labor force non-participation)

When I was diagnosed with RA I was working part time in a bank as a customer service representative.  The friendships I had with people over many years and with fellow workers were important, but fatigue and painful feet made it difficult to carry on as the RA progressed.  It was a gradual change but continuous and unwelcome.

        (A TD Bank in New York. Surprised to see familiar company elsewhere)

I started working part time in market research at that point and found that sitting down talking on the phone was far more possible for me.  When the company owner found true love (and busted up two marriages in the process) two of us there decided that we could do the job so we made a deal to buy the company. 

It is so much easier to be the boss.  Management accommodates your every need.  I had a great collection of suns and garage sale art in our office and really enjoyed talking to our clients and solving their problems. There was some friction.  My partner at one point said that if she had known the extent to which RA would affect me she never would have gone ahead with the partnership.

                                                                   The sun wall

However all good things come to an end. Our company was purchased; then my contract ended.  Suddenly I had no authority, no employees and a basement full of pictures.  After 20 years of working with no end in sight the sidewalk suddenly ended.

And as you all know working with RA takes quite a toll. When you're doing a demanding job with a chronic illness many find that working is pretty well all that you can manage to do.  We go home and rest after every day and then try to squeeze the rest of our lives into the weekend.  Something has to give and it is often social life, family responsibilities and creative lives that atrophy. 

I have said on occasion that I feel as though my life could be represented by a bonsai tree. It's lovely to look at bonsai but it represents a deliberate stunting and pruning of the tree, both the roots and branches.

This change in life, from working to not working, is tied up in our identities and the way we see ourselves.  As hard as it is to keep working, it's even harder to stop. 

Have any of you found good ways to deal with the new horizon of not working? 

So far I am consoling myself with a rich new group of virtual friends and news from the old office is like dispatches from a war zone. 

Maybe it's time to have fun and play with grandchildren...

Or my "art"... 

This is from the blog post called "I Never Met a Couch Potato with RA"


  1. I just recently became disabled due to RA and Crohns. I am finding the adjustment to not working very difficult. I was defined by job. I miss my work friends and no longer have anything in common with them.

  2. That is especially hard when you have chronic illness. It takes so much out of you to work through feeling bad.
    I loved having an office and an alternate life where RA took a back seat.
    Now all of my work friends just talk about how bad things are now.

    I plan to go and read your blog and look at the pictures. 365 is ambitious. Sorry that you did not turn out to be a Rituxan superstar
    Thanks for commenting